My speech on Bill 65 – The Cape Breton Railways Act

October 31, 2014

Cape Breton Centre MLA Frank Corbett spoke on the Cape Breton rail line – once the resource is gone, there’s no getting it back.

Here is a copy of Frank’s speech in the Nova Scotia legislature:

I would hope that in the few minutes I’m going to take – and I’m speaking also on behalf of my colleague, the member for Sydney-Whitney Pier – the reality is we’re talking about a piece of infrastructure that’s – you know, I can go on and on about what Cape Breton has done for this province, but this is the reality of something, that you don’t separate these two things out. The continuation of this rail line is good for Nova Scotia. I can wrap myself in the Cape Breton flag and say all those things, which I truly believe in, but I also believe in this great province.

To use a mixed metaphor, you are as strong as your weakest link. If we get rid of our rail link, then we’re in trouble. That prosperity is going to be – I will never be as despondent and say it’s never going to happen without the railway, but certainly it will make it all that much more difficult if we do not have that vital piece of infrastructure.

Earlier today, when asked about this bill and are we intruding on the private sector, my answer was simple; the people of Canada, the people of Nova Scotia, built that rail line. This country indeed was founded on linking us sea to sea to sea with rail lines. Now, we can debate in this House about government moving in or out of the short line services and all that stuff, but you know what, Mr. Speaker? I’m not interested in today’s debate to get into a history lesson.

What I really want to talk about is our economy and the vital link that this rail line is. Previous speakers have talked about businesses that use it, but really what we’re talking about is the potential. There has been talk about moving some of CBRM’s garbage along that line and there are some issues about that. Maybe we can work them out. There are issues there and I’m not blind to those. I was in the government that sat down with the owners and helped provide the subsidies as the previous government did. We have that investment, as the minister said, that shows that we’re all committed to it and that we have, as they say, skin in the game.

To say, is this bill perfect – well, what bill ever comes before this House that doesn’t have some room for improvement? But the reality of this bill is its intentions. The intentions of this bill are to keep that rail line intact so we will leave no stone unturned when it comes to keeping it and helping with our economic future.

We have a hard row to hoe when it comes to rebuilding our economy. There will be days we will rise up with our swords again and fight government over issues and that. But today is not that day. Today is the day to say, we will put our political stripes aside and say we are going to stand with a government bill because it’s a bill that stands with all the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

I am proud, as I said earlier, to be from Cape Breton. In line with the minister, we both grew up the hard way – sons of coal miners, where there were more dinnertimes than dinners. Doesn’t look it now, but I know hard times. I come from a family of 15. I have nine sisters, so I was lucky I did not get to wear any of their hand-me-downs. I got to wear a lot of my brothers’.

We knew what that was like. We knew that when the train came down from the short end of No. 12 Colliery and they shunted to take the coal cars out, we knew there was work around. We knew it, – I will date myself on this – I remember when the coal company went from steam locomotives to diesel locomotives. But those things – we knew what that meant. Even as a young child, you knew what that meant. I’m sure many who are from Cape Breton remember the Sydney and Louisburg Railway. All those things, those are vital pieces of infrastructure that kind of fell into the realm of history and a bit into lore.

But we can’t allow this line to be torn up. We can’t allow the people of this province to be on the hook for the environmental aftermath to be foisted upon our people. I stand here proudly, proudly in support of this bill. Maybe not all of the time will I agree with this government, but I will do this and I will say it on the record in support of my colleague and my friend, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, that this is a good bill. This should be fast-tracked, pardon the pun.

We’ve got to do this, not just for Cape Breton, but for the people of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada, which we are part of. Thank you very much. (Applause)